Tawa Pulao is a very simple & delicious rice dish that started off initially as part of the Mumbai street food scene, but it has now found its way into gourmet restaurants & chic cafes. The key to this dish lies in a special blend of about 15-20 spices known as “pav bhaji masala”. Now pav bhaji itself is also a tasty street food dish combining a toasted buttery bun (pav) that is eaten with a thick mashed mixed vegetable curry (bhaji). It is this special bhaji that is made with this specific pav bhaji masala that gives it a unique & wonderful flavor. The dish is further garnished with freshly chopped red onion, cilantro leaves, a squeeze of fresh lime & a liberal sprinkling of sev (super thin strands of fried dough). My inadequate description simply does not do this dish any justice but trust me, people stand in line for hours just to get this made at various Mumbai hotspots around the city.
Okay, but I digress. Back to Tawa Pulao! So pav bhaji masala can easily be bought in any Indian grocery store. One of these days, I plan to try to make the pav bhaji masala myself at home – it has a very distinct taste so you simply cannot substitute other masalas (spice blends) in place.
I have decided to make my Tawa Pulao using Bhutanese Red Rice -- which is a medium grain, semi-milled rice from the Kingdom of Bhutan (located in the Himalayas). This variety of rice has a nutty taste & slightly chewy texture. If you unable to find Bhutanese red rice in your area, feel free to use Basmati or even brown Basmati rice. This is a great way to use leftover rice, so just use whatever you happen to have on hand.
BHUTANESE RED RICE TAWA PULAO (Fried Bhutanese Red Rice)
3-4 cups of cooked Bhutanese red rice
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, peeled & diced
8-10 mushrooms (brown or white), quartered
2-3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
1½” piece of ginger, peeled & finely minced
2-3 small Thai green chilies, slit in half lengthwise (to taste)
½ cup green peas (frozen is fine, thaw before use)
½ cup corn kernels (frozen is fine, thaw before use)
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric (haldi)
½ tsp red chili powder
½ tbsp pav bhaji masala
salt & pepper, to taste
juice of ½ lime
2 tbsp ghee or oil (coconut, vegetable or canola)
freshly grated coconut for garnish
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
First, cook the Bhutanese red rice according to package directions. Usually, 1 cup of uncooked rice will yield 2 cups of cooked rice. If you do not have cooking instructions for the red rice, just rinse the red rice in a fine mesh colander until the water runs clear. Then add the red rice to a saucepan with enough water on top to cover by 1 inch. In general, the ratio is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of water. Then bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low & let cook for 15-20 minutes. Let sit for another 5 minutes before uncovering the pan. With a large fork, fluff the rice and allow it to cool. I spread the rice out on a large baking sheet, making sure the rice grains are all separated.
In a large deep skillet or pan on medium high heat, add the ghee. When hot, add the cumin seeds & green chilies. Stir & let sizzle for about 30 seconds or so, then add the onions along with the garlic & ginger. When the onions start to brown, add in the carrots & let them cook for a few minutes until they have slightly softened. Then add in the peas & corn, let them cook for a few minutes before adding in the spices (turmeric, red chili powder, pav bhaji masala, salt & pepper). Mix well to combine all the ingredients together & allow the spices to cook for a minute or two. Then add in the mushrooms & let them cook until browned. Next, add in the cooked red rice & mix well to combine. Lastly, add in the lime juice. Now reduce the heat to low, cover & let cook for just a few minutes until all the flavors have mingled. Garnish with lots of freshly grated coconut & cilantro leaves. Serve immediately & enjoy!
Feel free to add your favorite vegetables to this dish such as baby corn, green/red bell peppers, tomatoes, methi leaves, shredded cabbage, diced zucchini…